Spatio-temporal dynamics of density-dependent dispersal during a population colonisation

Ecology Letters
Sebastiano De BonaAndrés López-Sepulcre

Abstract

Predicting population colonisations requires understanding how spatio-temporal changes in density affect dispersal. Density can inform on fitness prospects, acting as a cue for either habitat quality, or competition over resources. However, when escaping competition, high local density should only increase emigration if lower-density patches are available elsewhere. Few empirical studies on dispersal have considered the effects of density at the local and landscape scale simultaneously. To explore this, we analyze 5 years of individual-based data from an experimental introduction of wild guppies Poecilia reticulata. Natal dispersal showed a decrease in local density dependence as density at the landscape level increased. Landscape density did not affect dispersal among adults, but local density-dependent dispersal switched from negative (conspecific attraction) to positive (conspecific avoidance), as the colonisation progressed. This study demonstrates that densities at various scales interact to determine dispersal, and suggests that dispersal trade-offs differ across life stages.

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